An Interview with Lenin Kumar

Satyabrata

Lenin Kumar, editor of a progressive peoples’ magazine in Oriya, Nisan, was arrested and sent to jail on charges of writing provocative literature. The fact is that his magazine took a stance against the anti-Christian pogrom in Kandhamal district after the killing of Laxmananda Saraswati. His arrest was an attempt by the government of Orissa to silence the voices of the oppressed, and could be seen as corroborating the ongoing McCarthyization process in India. After much struggle, Lenin is free on bail now.

Satyabrata: You have been convicted for possessing inflammatory materials. What, according to you, is being regarded as inflammatory in your booklet, Dharma Namare Kandhamalare Raktanadi (Kandhamal’s River of Blood in the Name of Religion) and why?

Lenin Kumar: Is it inflammatory, to identify the communal and brahminist forces and their agenda? The riot affected people in the relief camps have already pointed at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal men as responsible for violence in the name of religion. In the book, Dharma Namare Kandhamalare Raktanadi they are unmasked. But, they are in power in the state. So using the police they wanted to silence the voice, which is ‘inflammatory’ to them. It is ridiculous to say that the book disturbed communal harmony because it exposed them who really disturbed it.

Satyabrata: Why is Nisan being targeted? What is your expectation from other progressive people, intellectuals on this assault on Nisan?

Lenin Kumar: Nisan stands for janabadi (democratic) literature. Its basic trend is against Brahminism and imperialism. Unlike mainstream journalism, we have focussed on the ongoing peoples’ movements (including the Maoist among others) and their roots in genuine popular desire for liberation from brahminical and imperialist domination. The magazine is not yet banned. There is no question of bowing in front of the anti-people forces. When they sent me to jail, people protested throughout the state – writers came on the streets in a manner quite unimaginable in a region like Orissa. I think this is due to our commitment. All these developments inspire us. So there is no question of leaving the battlefield. And how can one repress an ideology?

Satyabrata: What reaction do you expect from other newspapers and journalists?

Lenin Kumar: Unfortunately in Orissa, most newspapers are in the hands of the ruling classes. They are simply bourgeois party leaflets. It is very difficult for a genuine reporter to take his position. Some reporters blindly act like representatives of the state. In my case, I have seen my name as ‘Mao writer”. What does it mean, till date I do not understand. Professionally they are expected to be above the outlook of the ruling classes, which are openly becoming the agents of international capital. Otherwise, there will be no space for democracy.

Satyabrata: You were arrested because of touching the Kandhamal issue. What is your personal view regarding the recent incidents in Kandhamal?

Lenin Kumar: Anti-dalit, anti-minority agenda is in the air. The Sangh Parivar is openly challenging the democratic values. The state is keeping silence. The Maoists in Kandhamal have showed us that the communal forces are building their second laboratory in the region after Gujarat’s. They have opposed these forces in their own way. We should not forget that Laxmananda Saraswati in Kandhamal was not a saint or a representative of the Hindu religion, but a leader of VHP. And frankly, I have no respect to their riot-politics.

Satyabrata: What is your message for fellow journalists, writers, intellectuals and progressive people?

Lenin Kumar: For getting the bail, I heartily thank the writers, journalists, intellectuals who stood for freedom of expression and protested my arrest. I thank my wife Rumita for her camaraderie in this process. If a person like me coming from a middle class family living in the state capital can be targeted, one can only imagine the extent of state terrorism and violation of human rights in the remote villages of Orissa, which hardly get noticed. We must stand united against any undemocratic, exploitative, anti-people actions.

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